Causative agent of Q fever found in Finland for the first time

8.9.2008

<div>The <i>Coxiella burnetii</i> bacterium that causes Q fever has been found in livestock on a farm in Western Finland.The animals showed no symptoms of the disease, but the infection was detected in other investigations. The infection status of the livestock and the source of the infection are still being investigated. </div>

C. burnetii is an intracellular bacterium. It is transmitted directly from one animal to the other or via blood-sucking arthropods (e.g. ticks). The infection can be determined on the basis of C. burnetii antibodies found in serum or in milk, or by means of methods of molecular biology.

The disease occurs worldwide, but no extensive follow-up studies have been conducted. In 2006 nine EU member states reported C.burnetii antibodies having been found in different species of animals, primarily cattle. As far as the Nordic countries are concerned, the disease is common in Denmark. In Finland animals have only been tested for Q fever on a random basis and therefore there is no detailed information about the possible distribution of the disease in Finland. Q fever has never been suspected in Finland on the basis of symptoms.

Q fever is a zoonosis (can be transmitted from animals to humans) and it can occur in almost all species of animals. The infection can be latent, sudden or chronic. The disease is often latent in animals, but particularly in ruminants it can cause abortions and fertility disorders. The bacteria are secreted into milk and birth canal discharge. Infected people show either no symptoms or the symptoms are similar to those of common cold in varying degrees of severity.

Q fever is not included in controlled animal diseases and will not result in any regulatory action taken on the farm. However, the milk from the affected farm must not be supplied to consumers unpasteurised or used in the manufacture of unpasteurised milk products.

For more information, please contact:
Sinikka Pelkonen, Professor, Research Unit of Bacteriology of Animal Diseases, Evira, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24950
Jaana Seppänen, Senior Scientist, Research Unit of Bacteriology of Animal Diseases, Evira, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24481
Ville Lehtinen, Infectious Disease Physician, National Public Health Institute KTL, tel. +358 (0) 9 4744 8557.

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